North Downs MTB Ride

Article by Doug Driscoll. Photos by Richard Marriott. Ride: 10-Sep-2011

5 VCC riders headed down to Dorking last weekend for a "killer loop" (according to MTB Rider magazine) across the North Downs:

The handsome chap in the middle is me, flanked by Miles Allen (left), Hazel Davies (back) and Justin Neville-Rolfe (aka Splasher) - right. Photo taken by Richard Marriott ... and yes, we did ride down those steps behind us!

We started off with the classic Box Hill climb. I rode this off-road a few months ago and was disappointed. In typical biker-friendly style the trail had rescently been relaid with shingle; Plus, the route was closed in with no views. So this time - following the published route - we went up the switchback road which will be used for the Olympic road race next year. And ... I was disappointed again. Nice views this time and a nice Alps feeling about it, but "oh so easy". Trust me, Mark Cavendish will have no problems getting up there.

Then we headed off-road for some fun. Plenty of single track and woohoo descents. Time was spinning by and we'd clocked up some serious altitude gain, so a stop was needed for our favourite cyclist's feast: energy bars & gels. Yummy!


We then started Holmbury Hill - a favourite hangout for mountain bikers. Trails galore and quite easy to get lost ... so we discovered! I always advise the group to keep straight ahead if they fall behind because I will always stop if we need to take a turn. Well, guess what happened? Seems Richard decided that he would rather follow two fit young ladies that crossed our route rather than follow me (said he thought it was me & Justin. Hah!), and led Miles & Hazel with him. Unaware of all this I then rode all the way down Holmbury Hill to the bottom (where I last saw them) and then had to ride all the way back up again. Thanks Richard! We had mobile phones but the signal came and went. From the top I finally made contact and we arranged a meeting point. Thank goodness for mobile phones.

Next and final challenge: Leith Hill (the second highest point in south-east England at 965ft). I nice climb, rewarding views, and best of all, a cake shop! After 4hrs of riding we felt we deserved a treat and made the most of it. Some took a trip up the tower which gets you to 1,000ft and above the tree line, hence magnificent views all round.

The descent is fast-and-furious and we supplemented this with a bit of off-piste. Jolly good fun but a bit of over excitement from some left them 'wrong-way-up'. We're made of tough stuff us mountain bikers though, so no harm done.

We managed to lose each other again on the way back, but were soon back together for the final slog back to Dorking. 5hrs of hard riding and we were all feeling it at the end. What a great day though. If you haven't ridden the North Downs then put it on your to-do list!