It was a Mixed Bunch of Riders that gathered for a Muddy Bike Ride. Choosing what mountain bike was ideal for this sort of ride is difficult as it would include a little singletrack. The South Downs National Park has as good a range of trails that you can find for mountain biking in the UK however the chalk can be slippery so I was hopeful the weak sun would dry out the dirt
After quick introductions some typical mountain bike action saw us avoiding the trails and riding the black stuff up hill with cold legs for some, especially me. On the flat the lack of a big ring showed up really quickly and reaching the high point was more effort than I had hoped.
A downhill track offered chance of a photographic moment so the first instance of a snapper hurtling past with huge pack, stopping, snapping and then catching up effortlessly in double quick time left us impressed with early zeal. Obviously he would slow up and struggle to keep up under the weight of all that gear and then we could complain about pack weights of our own.
Some more up, then a tiny down, followed by more up. The flavour of the day was established as lots of up and every time a photographer with a pack the size of a small shed hurtled out of view seeking another vantage point. Sometimes Rob the Record trundled easily alongside at a pace that found me checking gears constantly seeking just one more. Conversation turned to riding with a slower rider which in terms of the South Downs Way is absolutely everyone else. Training alone means he prefers a conversational pace, which is ours not his, as his would be eyeballs out for most of us. He chatted easily to everyone and only wobbled slightly at my fastest uphill pace. His point had been well made however so I slowed some more.
Steve from Stowaway Bikes was testing a Mondraker which looked very competent up hill and down dale and really stable over the more gnarly stuff. A quick heft proved it to be lighter than I had guessed and worth a test ride for me on another ride. He explained some of the joys of running a bike shop including long hours, hard work and limited time to ride dashing the hopes of anyone who thinks starting a shop and riding every day for fun is realistic. He does ride though as the pace throughout the day was well within the capability of his engine.
A brief stop at the Dyke and time required a faster pace. Oh joy! Racing downhill Simon and I lost a little gap due to a friendly pedestrian but surely a quick catch. A tiny traffic delay across a road and the gap seemed much bigger so I chose my biggest gear and my fastest feet to catch the peloton ahead. Needed a bigger gear or faster feet or, as it turned out, a 29er as Simon simply rolled away up the next hill and joined the group without trying. I tried harder and the gap stayed the same so I kept pedalling continuously down the whole hill and easily caught up when everyone had stopped and waited.
A rooty climb followed with me behind Matt when he took the Torvill and Dean line. My High Rollers may be slow but those tyres and our roots were not a good combination however all credit to him catching big slides time after time on an unfamiliar test bike. Bike seemed good though.
Another long uphill and the group began to tire so a loop of singletrack to finish. More up to start of course. Some familiar technical trails and then the day was done. We finished with coffee at the café in mud splattered legs.
Surely the best type of dirty week-end in Brighton.
(Read all about this in MBR magazine out Wednesday)- Ronnie