The cold weather extended into the weekend as forecasters had predicted with the temperature nudging -6C at Reigate Hill early on Saturday morning. But the hardy MTB folk of RedhillCC were undeterred as they turned out in their droves to make the most of a picturesque, wintry scene.
With Mat leading an extended 40 mile ride for experienced "can-we-go-faster-and-longer-please" riders, I was looking forward to a gentle and more leisurely ride with a smaller group of a dozen or so. Imagine my surprise then arriving at Reigate Hill to find the ride leader's car parking space taken and no fewer than 22 faces beaming at me in anticipation (or were they just shivering?). Given the icy conditions Mat and his group had sensibly decided it would be more fun to come along with us - and how right they were too!
So off we went taking it nice and gently along the first stretch over Buckland Hills. The frozen, compact snow proved tricky in places and took a little getting used to but gradually turned to looser snow once we got off the well-trodden pathways and into the woods. The snow made for harder pedaling and some familiar climbs took on a whole new meaning, in particular White Hill (aptly named and, no, I didn’t just make that up) which no-one was able to climb up uninterrupted to reach Mickleham. Never mind, there is always next winter.
Juniperhill can be a slippery devil at the best of times so we decided to steer clear given the weather conditions and changed our route to Bocketts Farm through Alsation which provided a pleasant and nippy run down to our tea-stop. Copious amounts of tea and cake did a good job warming us up before we headed out again for the less pleasant climb back up Alsation and onwards to Headley Common for the fastest route home.
The luck of the Irish was definitely in abundance in contrast to the previous week's ride with no punctures or mechanicals to report. A spill late in the day on an icy stretch was a reminder to us all why the RCC roadies lie low in this weather and caution is needed offroad too.
Thanks to Mat and Jack for back marking and welcome to the RCC roadies who joined us for the morning. As we crossed over (gently) the icy finish line at Reigate Hill our spirits were high, the banter was in full flow and all of us had practiced some new MTB skills.
And the best bit of the day for your ride leader? The picturesque, wintry scenes - nice but no; the company of other RCC riders - close but no; cleaning the bike afterwards - definitely not; a mug of tea at Reigate Hill cafe - getting warm now but still no. OK, it was using up a whole tank of hot water to defrost myself when I got back home!
See you soon.