Arrived early at Coldharbour and as there was a boat shortage understood the name was literal. New parking restrictions meant I grabbed almost the last place and waited on other early birds. When we all arrived we decanted to the nearest Leith Hill car park and then used the short road trundle to warm up before hitting Summer Lightning. New bits abounded with shiny bars and even a bright coloured frame – yeah!
I have been told by early Surrey Hills riders that short trails and even northshore appeared in the 1980’s but I first ventured Leith way around 2002. Then Summer Lightning was a twisty smooth trail with mini berms to test your cornering and a rollercoaster feel to test your courage at leaving the brakes alone. Now it has worn considerably and uneven steps and drops, gnarly roots and a general roughness has changed the feel. The old gentle trail is long gone and forks and shocks have to work hard along with my brakes at least.
Cold legs seemed to find me pedalling the whole time but Luke had chosen a super sticky tyre for grip like me and we seemed to be paying a price for this. to be fair I did not slip though. A myriad of small trails appeared left and right but connectivity seemed less than before so we ended up turning uphill towards the tower. After a coffee and cake break for some of us we headed to the small play section nearby where drops and jumps were repeated until a hint of boredom appeared. Encouragement in the form of “try the tiger line” got riders dropping over roots and jumping odd lines but we quickly needed to move on.
We headed northwards to find some gangster trail for Rob to consider and started with the old drop in section that has lasted well but seems tame on a modern bike. The gaps were big and too large for even the mighty Rob to attempt this visit but all of obstacles had a chicken run to allow you to look before you leap. Many looked tabletop from the approach and could easily catch out the less familiar so worth a dry run first.
Eventually we found our way to the cricket pitch and the new Summer bit which is a rework of an old trail line. It is much more challenging than before even if it is wider and the small blind sections eventually caught out Ashley who caught a giant log root on the “tiger line” he was following. He managed to pick himself up but had landed heavily and was forced to ride in wince mode for the rest of the day.
Rob eventually reached a section of jumps to test his mettle and in particular a trail gap jump, uphill and between the trees. His first attempt was completely successful, clearing the jump and mildly flattening the rear rim. It needed considerable lift to clear the full gap and full control on the narrow landing area but rather than rest on his laurels he went back to try once more.
The video is available via the forum as Steve caught it all. The slow motion should demonstrate why Rob wins the best bail of the week award and uses up two of his nine lives.
Although we only covered a fraction of the trails I think a return visit to ride the smaller twisty tracks may be suitable for all Brightonmtb riders even those who are gravity-careful so I will look to return for a few scouting runs and arrange something shortly.