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.
Loads of us turned up!
I had expected a smaller turnout until we got this established but we started off with a crowd. It was a short ride to Rob’s first planned task at the kerb at the entrance. This looked somewhat tame to the more experienced riders but everyone played the game and the ‘keen to improve’ riders all learned the basics of moving over the bike and letting it drop horizontally in a neutral position. Later I heard a few opinions marking this as the best skill to learn for the improvers and perhaps the best reminder for the more able.
Next stop was the reduced jump at the Witches Table which split the group into some riders riding some repeated loops of jump after jump and the improvers transferring kerb skills to a trail. This was a big step up, or step down really, from the kerb drop and good riders struggle to find the correct balance of speed and position. All the improvers got there in the end but some faster and some slower. Unexpectedly some of the more experienced group used the time to perfect the drop skill and I was surprised that a few riders managed to find the ‘making it look easy’ level.
Running on to some trails to try and include the practice took us up and around the high trails and everyone in the group warmed up again. Using any new skill on the track is hard at first but everyone was trying to find lumps and bumps wherever possible and so as lights began to turn on flashes of light flickered up and down through the trees. We stopped at some of the new obstacles that could be included as part of the Big Dog this year if the track saboteurs leave them alone.
This was a bigger drop which forced each rider to improve their balance especially if they wanted to ride it very slowly. Alex tried to ride almost stationary at one point and a couple of other riders managed it pro-perfect but I think this was due to my generous heckling. I was surprised that everyone managed such a large drop so well and that all the improvers group had raised their technical skills so much. As there was some play time I also realised that some riders have an over-abundance of skills that need to be used in the future to teach the rest of us how to wheelie, jump clear over large obstacles, attempt a wheelie-drop, tail-whips and surely someone can teach me to balance on my front wheel and turn a one-eighty on a tight track.
This may be a challenge too far. For me. And for someone else’s patience too.
The first ride was always going to be a little slow but we should be able to progress a little quicker now to make it more interesting for the experienced riders and add a little more continuity to the whole ride. There should be something for everyone to improve and as Rob begins to venture further afield there could be a new challenge for even the best riders. As long as there is the odd chicken run we should manage to keep the whole group riding all the fun stuff so come along even if you are not quite sure.
Happy New Year!
2014 is welcomed in with strong winds, torrential rain and a slight hangover! The dry, fast rolling trails of summer 2013 are now just a distant memory. Instead, this seasonal weather has blessed Brighton with saturated ground and fallen trees.
All this does not sound particularly enticing, but the first rides back after Christmas have proved to be most entertaining. The slick ground conditions have truly tested the cornering ability of even the cockiest riders. In fact, the slick ground conditions have tested most people’s ability to keep the bike upright in a straight line. But not to worry; the mud provides a soft landing. Fallen trees have diverted trials or provided new obstacles to tackle. Strong tailwinds have led to some record times on the climbs, while strong headwinds have surprised us all with unusually exhausting descents.
The empty promise of the next trail been dry has amused some, but the genuine promise of jelly babies has been well received by all. As fun as these first rides of 2014 have been, as one Brighton MTB member put it, things can only get better from here!
First Thursday Night Ride – 26/09/2013, latest night ride 28/11/13
I’d been away from Mountain Biking for about ten years. I gave my self a kick up the derrière and got back into the saddle and after some solo time (that sounds a little wrong!) and a new bike, I thought it would be a good idea to see if there was anyone else I could ride with.
Thanks to the power of Google I discovered Brighton MTB and joined them on one of their Thursday night rides. It was great to be led around Stamner Park through some of the great trails. The sight of 15 illuminated bikes cutting through the trees was amazing.
I will be back for more.
True to his word Toby has out again last night hurtling through the dark, holding pace with the pack on the singletrack and coping with all the uphill stuff without complaint. He did slip at one point and I was forced to stop otherwise I would have coped with a greasy, muddy stump easily of course but to make him feel better I waddled like a duck astride the bike over the next two to save his feelings but obviously could have managed this easily – easily.
I did slide into a tree at a later point and he did not repay the favour and made it seem easy as he casually waited and rode around it as if it was not difficult at all. My feelings were hurt at at that point.
So if you have been away for a while, e.g. ten years like Toby, then you could take a chance and return to the saddle. You also receive the cast iron guarantee that a full winter’s riding will bring you up to our gold standard of “barely mediocre” like the rest of us.
Having only ever joined Brighton MTB on weekend rides I thought it was about time I made the effort to get out on one of their weekday evening rides. I decided to join their Thursday night ride as it was billed as a more relaxed pace and not being the quickest on climbs this suited me fine. Continue reading
There is a myth whispered quietly between mountain bikers of a prize often looked for but rarely found. What it is isn’t entirely clear, the biggest rush, the smoothest jump, the longest – maybe never ending – trail, no one really knows. You don’t win the prize by entering a lottery or answering a question. To win you must first search for and find a thing esoteric and known only in a mountain bikers heart; all that is known is that it can be ridden and once found you must ride it like the world is ending behind you. The thing has a name, it’s called the Gnarr, and to ride it like the world is ending just behind your back wheel? That’s less complicated, you shred it. (apparently). Continue reading
First, overcome fear, put on bike gear, get the shiny new 29er out of the shed, go and meet a group of guys you’ve never met in a car park and follow them into a dark, wet, wintry, unlit wood…… Literally the best experience I have had off-road in ages. Continue reading