I wanted to make sure I knew what I was going to be going up tomorrow. Clearly, my strategy of not riding in Surrey and only riding in Kent has left me scrabbling my memory bank of what Leith Hill “feels like”.
I really should work on my navigation skills. Last night is a case in point. I went out with Dov and Dan, but sadly not Jay, to the wilds of Surrey. Where it was REALLY dark. The plan was, out to Effingham, up Whitedown Lane, down, straight down to Forest Green, up Leith. Train Home.
The reality was, out to Effingham, up Whitedown, turn left to Leith. Get lost. Lose Dov and Dan. Lose my bearings. Eventually get to Coldharbour. Ride home. Get puncture coming down a hill. Stop. By the biggest pile of horse shit. Fumble and look like a fucking amateur changing the tube. Nearly cross thread the hose on my pump. Nearly bonk getting to Richmond. Eat gel. Drop gel wrapper. Go back as I thought it was something else. Catch back up. Ride through Richmond Park. Almost lose the plot before Wandsworth. Get home.
That’s not to say it was all terrible. It was relatively quiet out there, the roads weren’t that bad. My new chainrings seemed to be ok, the changes were smooth, the inner ring felt better than before for the climbing. My lights didn’t fail.
More importantly, Richmond Park at midnight was something else. Stags calling in the dark, “I am fit. I will come and sex you now fertile females”, weird microclimates of cold then warm then freezing, strange banks of fog, fit fertile female deer standing in the middle of the road refusing to move until pedal unclip/clip startled them into making a decision (“shit! he’s got a gun!”).
I hardly ever ride in Surrey anymore (thanks to the never ending battle of car vs. bike, which I’m sure will continue ever onwards), I hardly ever ride in Richmond Park (busy, not that interesting, pain to get to). It was satisfying to be out in these places and getting a different experience of them. Which stops them being places to avoid, and makes them places to consider at different times for different things.
I got lost, I rode round in circles, I didn’t recce the hill, I still had a good ride (though longer than I’d have liked), I nearly bonked on the way home, I saw some deer, and some bats, I like bikes. I ate all the food when I got home.