A long time ago the myths say that a troll could be found living underneath a bridge and travellers paid a toll or, in some cases, were eaten. Although some bridges were crossed and trolls abounded no tolls seemed required and only breakfasts were to be eaten. In fact the only danger was the exposed roots that lay in wait around every corner but only claimed a few travellers on this particular day.
Tunnel Hill trolls had offered a guided ride with a promise to show trails that we would enjoy and even the occasional challenge. We started from a car park with a breakfast cafe alongside a toilet and shower block. Luxury for all of us.
I had expected an in-ride to a start point but instead it was three pedal turns and up a climb. The rain on the wet roots made this immediately slippery and my own change to Trailrakers looked to be a questionable decision. I find them great in the heavy mud but less than confidence inspiring on the chalk or on any angled roots. I slipped and slipped and slipped to the top.
We had arrived in a wild wood of trails that had an array of opportunities running hither and thither. It was hard to avoid staring over the front wheel as we wound our way left and right, but mainly up through the trees, however it felt like the Leith of the past with narrow trails that twisted and turned.
One trail led to another and another and another. In between there were lots of short, fast ups and steep little drops. Local knowledge suggested a high gear, momentum and strong legs were the way to go as spinning in a low gear seemed to punish a little. Local knowledge also said that the drops needed commitment to hold a steady line.
The ground drained well and stayed mostly dry despite the sky falling and no one claimed of mud clogging the treads. There was a discussion on the best tyres for winter but if there is a non-clogging, root gripping tyre it seems to avoid popular acclaim.
Sweeps and swoops and twists and turns and more drops followed one after another until we came to the first challenge of the day. It was a straight jump into a gully and, in the rain, looked very challenging.
Only one brave soul saved our honour.
More trails, more ups of course and eventually another challenge. This time a steep rolling drop into another gully. We walked down and had a look at the narrow start point.
Only one brave soul saved our honour.
More trails and the first bridge arrived. The toll was “no dabs” just as you reach the angled step. The toll was unpaid by some or me at least.
Lots more trails, lots more roots, lots more roots and the only real fall of the day. I looked ahead at the trail heading up and watched a familiar shape turn sharply and hurtle down a trail the width of a hand. A sharp turn ahead suggested dramatic braking but just leaning over was an alternative option. It was not a viable option though. One down and one into the bracken in a generous gesture of avoidance but no one harmed.
More trails and the first little bridge which jumped out in front of us despite a warning. This was quickly followed by another and another and they all got narrower and narrower. The last one barely a tyre’s width missed by all.
This finished with ‘The Last Challenge’ which was a change from the normal static threat we are used to approaching with varying degrees of confidence and certainty. A see-saw nodded ominously ahead.
The brave rode over assuredly and without hesitation which made it harder for the rest of us who were in spectator mode. Everyone was urged to try with the argument that it is easier than it looks. It looked hard.
Then one of the fairer sex rode over and spoiled it for us spectators. The faces in front of me changed to “Oh no, I need to do this now!” and accurately mirrored my own.
Gathering up our skirts we asked for hands to catch our flailing bodies and rode to our doom.
A little honour saved.
A last flourish of twists and turns and a final drop to bottom the suspension before a whisk back to the start. Splattered and wet the cafe beckoned.
The Trolls provided a great ride on a really poor day and acted as guide and shepherd and mentor and helper with unfailing humour and good nature. The superb trails and the generous nature of the Trolls made this one of my best rides of the year.