The riding is as varied as the weather. Early in the month I had a beautifully constructed plan to collect someone from Heathrow, via a cheeky lap of Swinley. On paper this was perfect, as the trails are roughly 20minutes from the airport. It all went well down to Bracknell, and round the wet tracks which were pleasingly much less crowded than the carpark suggested. Reasonably fast and flowing this was fun even with half an eye on the time.
As I arrived back to the car to a couple of missed calls to tell me the plane had landed ahead of schedule things were still on track as I would get there well before customs and baggage reclaim were negotiated. Pleased with myself I swept out of the carpark and towards the airport.
Whether I missed the junction or it was closed is something I’ve refused to go back and check, at risk of discovering that the outcome was down to me rather than the upgrading of the M3. Either way instead of arriving at Heathrow in perfect time I found myself a junction further up the M3 in stationary traffic for a solid two and a half hours. Any of the hard-won calm that riding provides rapidly evaporated into the anger of being helplessly stuck, in the rain, watching the rear lights of the car in front for hours.
A week or so later it was time to ride again. The weekend was a mixed bag, with Saturday taken up with other sport and beautiful, warm and full of hope, followed by Sunday which was damp and drizzly all morning. By early afternoon I was fed up of watching cars go past on a wet road and judging the level of rain by the speed of their windscreen wipers and decided that the only real answer was to go out and ride anyway.
As is so often the case being in the rain was less bad then you imagine from the way it looks on the windscreen and wearing the right kit works wonders for your ability to ride through it. In any case I hardly noticed as the rain stopped a few minutes in and after the initial shock of getting sprayed with wet mud it’s easy to get used to it when it’s warm enough. A couple of hours being liberally coated in muddy water is perhaps the epitome of British mountain biking and can be fun as long as you know you have somewhere to get warm, clean, and dry afterwards.
The contrasts of this time of year were brought in to focus on Monday when a warm, sunny, Spring day, exactly as forecast dawned. Heading towards Kent, I decided to check out more of the riding that the North Downs can offer. After an hour escaping London I set off to follow the guide book I obtained last year. I was reminded that the author enjoys a good hard climb as straight from the car it went up on a track that was pretty much unridable in the conditions. I was starting to doubt whether this had been a sensible choice, but pressed on to find a broadly dried-out, flowing and fun loop that took me through woods enjoying the hint of spring as much as I was, through villages and past incredible houses. The ride even threw in some technical parts that had me wishing I’d brought the bigger bike along, rather than the hardtail I elected to ride. The downhills were stepped in many cases and a great opportunity to remember how to ride them without the benefit of 140mm of air suspension to help.
Broadly the mud was not too sticky to get through or over and in between the worst patches it was a ride skipping and rolling through the Kent countryside. I mean I could have done without the badger strung up by the neck overhanging the path, but otherwise it was excellent.