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01 Feb Green Dragon

SHABI Green Dragon loop 01 / 02 / 22

Irresistibly lured by the promise of a balmy spring-like evening, lovely dry conditions and the best Thai curry in all the land, thirteen* SHABI’s assembled in the carpark of the Green Dragon in Liphook for Slash’s (mostly) local loop. For clarity, that’s “mostly Slash’s” – not “mostly local”... okay? Good. *okay, twelve, if we’re being pedantic about it.

The night mode on my camera is incredible! Oh and there's some shabis...

That said, in a rare departure from our usual commendable punctuality, Kate arrived with barely enough time to spare for a hearty greeting having already ridden from Whitehill. Tonka joined us on the London Road outside just as the peloton emerged from the narrow ginnel (Google it, southerners) like a cork out of a bottle of well-shaken Lambrini... In his defence, only twenty minutes earlier, Tonka had been starring in a real-life crime drama... or an elaborate police sting operation, honey trap, setup... we’ll find out, I’m sure.

A Longer than usual pre ride chat, thank goodness it was 23 degrees C

So, some people did some bicycle riding... and some didn’t fall off. That’s the condensed, pocket-sized version.

Me, Chuff, Nurse Mick, Strangely Brown, Big Ring, Lecky Lee, Kate, Tarmac, Lieutenant Dann, Smashie, Slumpy, Dobbie, LBD, Tonka... Hold on – that’s fourteen! Okay, so there were fourteen of us...

First up, a bit of road to the path I think they call ‘the Hanger’ that passes under the A3 where the local yoof sniff nitrous oxide and that emerges in the graveyard of St Mary’s church in Bramshott. Disappointingly for some, the yoof were not there peddling recreational chemicals so we all managed to ride through the churchyard and negotiate the church steps in an appropriately reverential manner.

Then, onwards and gently upwards past the gingerbread cottage and a familiar singletrack trail into the gnarly depths of Ludshott Common and Gentles Copse... and that’s where the crashing started. Forgive my failure to provide detail but I believe that it was Smashie who hit the ground first in the narrow descent known inexplicably as ‘Cathedral Gully’.

Smashie was the first to fall, when a fast moving log threw him off

It might’ve been Slumpy too, I can’t be sure as I had been lured into the ‘Nurse Mick’ trap and had raced off at an alarming pace oblivious to the rapidly darkening woodland behind that now lacked the twinkling lights and cheerful distant banter of the chasing group.

Slumpy was the next SHABI to have a lie down

Can I claim to have RM’d the most crashy Tuesday night loop in the history of the SHABI’s?

Maybe, I don’t know, but there were five... yep, five involuntary dismounts. I only witnessed one of them – Nurse Brown – and I’ll come to that shortly and it is controversial, but I’m reliably told that Smashie, Slumpy, Dobbie and Leutenant Dann all took a little lie down but I don’t know where, how, why or how spectacularly. Sorry about that. Like I said... Mick.

Making it 2 crashes in 2 rides in a row, Dobby also decided to have a lie down mid ride

We regrouped and enjoyed beautifully dry, fast conditions through Gentles Copse and Hilland Woods where half of the peloton went ‘rogue’ and re-emerged on the other side – not the wrong side – just not the side I was on – of a hedge-line. Reunited, we took the road up to the village green at Arford and played with some traffic, a bit.

Then a road descent – I know, nobody likes a road descent and I could feel the sting of thirteen figurative tiny daggers in my back but hey, I’m sure it was short-lived. We were very soon back on that path – the one stolen from Strangely’s much loved ‘dead cat weir’ ride – that leads satisfyingly to the broken bridge. And that’s where Nurse Brown landed on his arse – on the broken bridge. Why controversial? Well, see, he wasn’t actually on his bike. I will defer to the appropriate sub-committee the question of whether points should be awarded but since nature dropped a tree on the wooden bridge, it simply isn’t rideable. And, being not-rideable, it also prevents the requisite momentum to tackle the granny-ring climb that follows. However, being supreme athletes, such as we all are, we were once again on unseasonably dry, flowy trails that lead to Broxhead Common.

Not wanting to feel left out, Nurse Brown had a lie down too

Some clever people at Harvard have done some research into how to ask for advice. No, really, they have...

  1. Start with a positive tone. ...

  2. Identify the type of advice you're seeking. ...

  3. Come prepared with specific details. ...

  4. Ask the right person. ...

  5. Don't ask everyone. ...

  6. Don't assume you already know the answers. ...

  7. Be grateful.

Now, I had a route planned. I had scoped a version of it the previous week and was quite prepared to stick to the plan (a barely discernible little green ‘breadcrumb’ line on my clever watch). But then, it was on that scoping ride that I had gone in search of a well-kept secret trail revealed to me and others on a Cycle Sphere shop ride RM’d by our new recruit Kate, a couple of weeks before. I couldn’t find it.

So, with Kate amongst our ranks, I sought to pressgang him into leading a little diversion from my ‘Broxhead-Lite’ route and risk leading us all down an impossible to find but ludicrously rewarding little descent. And so, carefully wording my request for advice...

  1. "So, Kate, you know that fabulous section you took us down the other week? The one with the steps? That was great wasn’t it...?”

  2. "It’s near here right?”

  3. "I tried to find it last Monday but there were trees down so I think I might’ve been on the wrong trail, I really don’t know”

  4. Ask the right person. ... Well, Kate’s the man...

  5. Don't ask everyone. ... d’uh

  6. Don't assume you already know the answers. ... I think I clearly implied sufficient incompetence to contribute in any way

  7. "Ah, would you Kate, thanks!”

And so, with some humility, I must confess that the loop was not entirely mine. What, you noticed?! That really fun bit that included the little sections of steps, and drops and logs and narrow singletrack through the trees amongst the derelict remains of something that might once have been of military function, perhaps, was all Kate’s handiwork. And it didn’t stop there.

Relishing the unexpected honour of leading our merry band of men, Kate then had us climbing again in a big loop back to the top and another, much faster, flowy descent with the comedy tree placed unhelpfully on the preferred riding line, and out onto the road by the garage where the Greco Grill used to be. Hoping to relinquish some pride, I very briefly took the lead again heading into Deadwater Valley Nature Reserve but was saved from a navigational error by Kate who, knowing every inch of this area such as he does (and I don’t), confidently took the RM role again to lead us all along lovely sections of boardwalk, onto the pumptrack and only then letting me salvage some integrity back at the front.

A bridge too far?

The last bit of the loop was uneventful but with the faint, distant whiff of Massaman curry, jasmine rice and real ale in the air, the pace picked up as we negotiated the little singletrack path that runs parallel with the Woolmer Ranges perimeter road. With time now running out – well, expired – we tackled the last climb of the day up and over the A3 from Conford and then the fast descent to the main road at Longmore where the gate has been enthusiastically fortified with a pile of logs big enough to stop a tank.

Thoughts turn to the waiting Curry... (Slumpy's first)

Then past the Deer’s Hut onto the Foley Manor farm track and a left turn along the side of a ploughed field that emerged almost back in the centre of Liphook.

Despite the falls, of which there were many, nobody was hurt, no mechanicals, botanicals or humanicals and the Thai dinner at the Green Dragon was exceptional. A most agreeable little perambulation of North Hampshire by bicycle with my chums, forsooth...

Don’t go changing...

Slash x

" / "

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